2023 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Jarred Mack, University of Virginia (Darden)

Jarred Mack

University of Virginia, Darden School of Business

Age: 32

“Carefree, energetic, friendly guy who is always down to snowboard, cook or hit the gym!”

Hometown: Houston, Texas

Family Members: Lauren (wife) & Amaya (3 month old daughter)

Fun fact about yourself: I was 19 years old when I first saw snow and 21 years old when I first snowboarded, but it has become my #1 hobby and passion. Since then, I have snowboarded on two continents, in three countries and across six states. My wife likes to joke that we are planning our family around snowboarding now.

Undergraduate School and Degree: United States Naval Academy, Political Science

Where are you currently working? Transitioning U.S. Navy Supply Officer; I have accepted a Senior Brand Manager role at Procter & Gamble starting this summer.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: President of Darden Executive Veterans Club, Tyler G. Sharp Scholarship Founder and Manager

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? In my work at the U.S. Naval Academy, advising the student body (Midshipmen) on personal finance. As part of our Experiential Learning course at Darden, I chose to focus on expanding the personal finance curriculum within the services that I offer to the Midshipmen. Drawing directly from my investing, finance, and accounting classes, I developed a completely revamped formal education program supported by more robust financial/economic principles and methods. The new program has been a success and led to the establishment of a mandatory education program for the school. While I am looking to expand the program a 1.5 credit course, I am proud to have created this for the school. I know how important personal financial literacy is to a young person’s success. As an USNA graduate myself, I have been so humbled and blessed to help students start their adult life on the right foot.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career?  In 2020, while leading the financial division onboard the USS BOXER, we were recognized as the #1 financial division in the entire U.S. Pacific Fleet (amongst 200 other divisions). A photo of our ship and a congratulatory letter was showcased on the cover of the annual “Comptroller Financial Guidance” publication. Among the hard and tragic times of COVID-19, this was a moment of triumph for myself and most importantly the Sailors I had the honor of leading. It was the acknowledgement of all our dedication and hard work over the previous year’s 7-month deployment and subsequent year of steadfast financial performance.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Luca Cian; he brought such energy and true enthusiasm to class every day! He perfectly balanced the case method with real world experience and unique insights from his vast professional career. When I told him I was offered a role at P&G, he was arguably more excited than me, exploding in congratulations and a big hug. In fact, his passion for marketing partly inspired me to have confidence in pursuing a role at P&G. As someone with no previous formal marketing experience, I am thankful for his lessons and guidance.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? In 2018, I attended a 3-week executive education course through the U.S. Navy at Darden. I decided then that if I ever attended business school, my top choice would be UVA. The professors, program staff, and students I have encountered have always made me feel at home and welcomed. The program location, format, and global learning opportunities greatly distinguished itself from other programs. Being a veteran using the G.I. Bill, UVA made the process seamless, and the out-of-pocket expenses were quite less compared with other programs without sacrificing any of the rigor, experience, or prestige of the program. Our nation’s capital is a major transportation hub, so traveling to and from would be extremely easy as well making it easier on my family.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work?  Strategic Thinking. Over the past two years, I have been a part many rich and diverse discussions that have forced me to question my assumptions about how I approach simple and complex problems. In the military, there is a manual or regulation for everything, and this can lead to a conventional way of thinking and problem-solving. Since I have been in the program, I have begun questioning everything at work, often to the annoyance of my commanding officer. I have worked to rewrite instructions, improve the quality of life of the students, and expand our culinary operation beyond what was thought possible. Where I might have been reticent in meetings before, I now have increased confidence to speak my opinions succinctly to influence decisions and decision makers.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? Like many others, my wedding and honeymoon were affected by COVID-19. Getting engaged in 2020, we planned our wedding and honeymoon prior to starting at Darden and me seeing the class schedule. It turned out that our wedding fell on an in-person class weekend, and I missed all the weekend classes. To make matters worse, our original honeymoon to Thailand was cancelled last-minute by the Omicron variant, which forced us to settle for a last-minute cruise. In my feeble attempt not to get too far behind, I called in our next classes on Zoom from the stateroom of a Carnival Cruise. While the Wi-Fi was spotty at best, I was able to give the class and professor a good laugh and earned my wife a round of applause for letting me learn accounting on their honeymoon. The professors and my boss (wife and work lol) were very understanding and supported me during my entire time away. My boss approved my extended leave allowing me to work remotely for almost a month.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? “It is going to be just like college”. I had heard many times that graduate school was just like going back to college. That terrified me because, as an undergrad, I did not enjoy the long lecture style of education, but I was pleasantly surprised and relieved to see how involved and interactive the case method made our classes. The lively debates and discussions kept my attention unlike my days in Lit 101.

What was your biggest regret in business school?  I regret not taking more advantage of my professors and their wealth of knowledge. I would have liked to spend more personal time with a several of them, to learn different insights from their careers and life. I think this would have done a large benefit for myself as I look to exit the military and enter civilian life.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? LaShondra Ervin. While everyone in our class has had ups and down during the program, I can think of no other person who embodies a fighting spirit and friendship. She has endured some personal and family hardships during the program, but has fought hard to find a new job and excel in classes. She also fearlessly leads our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) program. Every time you see her, she has a smile on her face and has time to talk. She remembers everything about you and makes you feel like a true friend. All throughout my wife’s pregnancy, LaShondra showed genuine interest and care for us and would make a point to ask me how she is doing. She is a loving mother and wife, and I am fortunate to call her my friend.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? The older average age and length of work experience of the executive format was the key selling point for me. I knew I was going to be exiting the military at the end of any program. As a result, I wanted to be able to learn not only business skills from my professors, but also the real-world application of those skills from my classmates.  Also, I still wanted to remain on active duty for two more years as I was engaged and would not be able to live comfortably on my then fiancé’s salary alone. The program so perfectly fit in our lives and allowed me to continue supporting my growing family, advance at work and earn a world-class education. Being surrounded by highly successful individuals with unique perspectives of leadership the executive program fit my needs exactly. Other part time or online programs did not have the in person or timeline factors that I needed.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Apart of this program was me finding a career and field I truly can be excited in once again. A field that I have been super excited about for years has been snowboarding. To create a more inclusive and diverse sporting culture, I would like to work on spreading the accessibility and affordability of winter sports to those of lesser means or access.  Whether that be working for ac company like Vail Resorts or Burton Snowboards or even starting a non-profit, I would like to make sure more kids can explore their dreams and talents on the slopes regardless of color, income, gender or geographic location.

What made Jarred such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“From the moment Jarred Mack joined the Darden Executive MBA program in August of 2021, it was clear that he was committed to making the Darden experience a positive one and was thirsty to learn as much as possible. His approach and enthusiasm in and outside of the classroom have been infectious – those lucky enough to share a classroom with Jarred always feel the joy and commitment he has for engaging in genuine discovery and inquiry. Jarred elevates the conversation in and out of the classroom. He brings a fresh perspective and take so much pride in his engagement in the learning process. Jarred is inquisitive, kind, respectful of his classmates, faculty and staff, and believes in the power of the community.

Jarred consistently helped others learn and did so always with a positive approach and through positive remarks. Jarred has provided insightful and meaningful contributions to the Darden group’s learning and it has been clear that Jarred cares about his classmates as people and as business leaders. Jarred is also never afraid to ask questions and cares deeply about the learning process. At the same time, he recognizes that learning is a gift, and doesn’t take himself too seriously.  Always with a smile, and with an enthusiastic twinkle in his eye.

As the co-leaders of Darden’s Executive Veterans Club, Jarred helped foster a community for the Darden Veterans, as well as working to find opportunities to welcome others to learn more about the group and celebrate their accomplishments.

I cannot wait to watch Jarred continue to develop as a business leader and observe his future successes.”

Professor Yael Grushka-Cockayne
Senior Associate Dean of Professional Degree Programs


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